I had an interesting conversation with a Single the other day about determining God's plan for you. It struck me that if you beg God over and over again to reveal His plan, you might not being giving Him a chance to get a word in edgewise. By asking so many questions, you won't be open to hearing answers. I know it might be difficult to ask your questions and then sit in absolute, empty-headed, trusting silence in front of the tabernacle or crucifix, but why not try?
Trinity Sunday has just passed, and the worst Trinity Sunday homily I ever heard included a bold declaration that the Trinity was not an unplumbable Mystery. But, actually, yes, the Trinity is an unplumbable mystery. (Where did he get his theology degree, I wonder. Out of a Cracker Jack box?) There is a lot of mystery in Christianity, simply because our reason is just not big enough to take in the ways of God. This is very difficult for those who have broken the first commandment and enshrined limited human reason as a god before Him, but it should not be difficult for us Christians.
God's plan is a mystery, and goodness knows how much of it we ever get to see, let alone understand. Usually we can do it only through hindsight and theological speculation. The liturgies and Gospels show evidence of the apostles, who lived through such mind-blowing events, grasping at ways to explain what just happened in a way that their initially Jewish and then pagan audiences could understand.
Whether or not is a good idea to look back and see what God was doing with your life is an open question. I have received a great deal of comfort from a hypothesis about the point of my PhD program. That was an awful time, and it resulted in illness, dropping out of the program and falling out of love with academic Catholic theology.
Because I was an A student, prayed a lot before I entered the program, felt rock solid and happy that academic theology was what God was calling me to do, and it all went wrong anyway, what was God's point?
Over the years, it occurred to me that God's point was not the PhD program itself, but for me to meet my housemate Ted (who is in My Book), who got me interested in blogging. I started a blog, and because I started a blog, I had a book published, made some friends, met my husband and helped a lot of people.
From an economic point of of view, this is pretty nutty. If I had completed the PhD and gotten an academic post (as grads of my program generally did), I would now be pulling down thousands of dollars, called by a title, getting one of the best seats in the syna--at the theological table, and a whole lot of other nice stuff. Instead, five years of ministerial and theological study ended up in a blog, for which I am paid exactly nothing.
However, I'm not starving to death because first my family and now my husband makes sure I don't. I'm doing more than okay. And, as I constantly remember, St. Ignatius of Loyola told the first Jesuits that they were not allowed to charge for their work. I got my theological education from the Jesuits. Jesuit institutions, understandably, now charge for their work. But it makes me think about how truly valuable is unpaid work.
Anyway, we do worry that we will somehow mess up God's plan for us by making the wrong decision. But I say not to worry about that. God writes straight with crooked lines, as we are often told. Our Lord said "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God." Thus, if you do your best to obey His commandments, no matter what bad things happen or what good things do happen, somehow God's plan will unfold without interference from you. It will also happen in His own time, not yours, which is maddening, but He knows best.
The best gauge of what you should do, when it comes to state in life, volunteer work, friends and career, is what you want to do. We all struggle to do the right thing, but we very often know, deep down, what that right thing is. And the right thing is usually what we really do want. For example, there are girls who are tempted to sleep with the boyfriends they are in love with, even though deep down what they really want is to get married to men who are also in love with them, without committing mortal sins along the way. Sadly, a spirit of worry and pessimism tells them that this is hardly likely, if not impossible and "naive". The important battle is to fight off this spirit and all sinful desires so as to hear and protect the good desires central to our hearts.
We rip ourselves off all the time. I ripped myself off this morning by having only a cup of coffee for breakfast. (I'd better go now and eat something nutritious.) My unsolicited advice is not to rip yourselves off by settling for a sinful second best but to be faithful to Christ and the teachings of the Church. Do that and stop worrying about the future. When you're in the right place, doing the right job, friends with the right people, and in love with the right man or religious order, you'll know. You'll know because you'll feel very relaxed and happy and everything, for once, will seem easy.